How I came to be the temporary caretaker of a rare VW Convertible

Just sort of fell into it

When you think about all the cars that were made since the history of cars, there’s one that just about guarantees a smile every time you see one, the VW Beetle. I’m talking about the original Type 1 Beatle, not the most recent version that just went out of production. The subject of the one in this blog entry is a 1979 Convertible.

Mint 1979 VW Convertible

The one that got away

If you’re any kind of car geek like me, you remember your first car, or one you owned very early on and wish you had again. Mine was a 1970 AMX in this case Dan Chaudoir’s was this Beatle. Like any good dad, put his family first so had to let one like this go to put bread on the table and sold it. Flash forward to last year and Dan lets me know that he’s looking for another ’79 convertible Florida Blue just like this one. I found several of them but none were really in great shape and the one was located in Finland. Go figure, drop-top in a cold climate. Not that Wisconsin isn’t. The hunt was on.

Related: This might have been Paul’s 1970 AMX

I had kind of forgotten about the search for a while when a got a call from Dan who had found one in Florida not in Florida Blue but in Nepal Orange. Of course, there’s a story behind this. He had found it originally on Bring A Trailer but it had been sold. He left his contact information with the seller in case things didn’t work out on the sale. You guessed it, he got the call because the sale fell through. So Dan does the deal and arranges for transportation from Jacksonville to Fort Meyers.

Dan’s VW in Door County

The Beetle led a very charmed life. It was part of a collection in a museum in South Carolina for 13 years and then sold to the collector that Dan bought it from. It had just over 12,000 miles. This bug is cherry and all original. The body has no dents or scratches and the paint looks like it just came off the showroom floor. The chrome and other brightwork are also in excellent shape. The interior has no rips or tears and the rubber isn’t even cracked.

A pristine interior

Mechanically it is sound. All U.S. Beetle Convertibles in 1979 featured a 1,584-cc horizontally opposed, OHV four-cylinder engine. With Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection, the air-cooled engine was rated at 48 horsepower at 4,200 rpm when new. The engine looks new. The four-speed manual is in great shape too. I remember Dan taking me for a ride in it and warning me of the neck bending acceleration. I’m kidding. It goes 0-60 when it’s ready.

Like new engine.

1979 was the last full year for the VW Beetle in the U.S. and VW built 1,156,455 vehicles in 1979 but only 10,681 were Super Beetle cabriolets sold in the U.S. Production. It listed at $6800 and today has become a fairly collectible car. According to Hagerty prices range from #4 Fair: $9900, #3 Good: $17,200, #2 Excellent: $44,500, and #1 Concours: $62,000. Hagerty defines Concours as “the best in the world. The visual image is of the best vehicle, in the right colors, driving onto the lawn at the finest Concours. Perfectly clean, the vehicle has been groomed down to the tire treads. Painted and chromed surfaces are mirror-like. Dust and dirt are banned, and the materials used are correct and superbly fitted. The one-word description for #1 vehicles is “Concours.” With very little effort this big could fall into that category. Dan even kept the original tires although it rides on new ones now. Just recently on Hemmings this Florida Blue Convertible with just 94 miles (that is not a typo) sold for$65,625.

Photo: Hemmings

How I became caretaker

Dan took delivery of the car in mid-July and drove it around his summer home in Sturgeon Bay, WI but unfortunately did not get much time to enjoy is as he passed away in October of last year.

Dan with the top down at his place in Florida

I’m not exactly why his wife Jody chose me to be the caretaker but am happy to do it. Maybe it’s because I Iove classic cars or maybe I’m the only one she knows that can drive a manual transmission.

Related: Read about the VW fleet in Oshkosh

I drove it down from Sturgeon Bay to Jody’s home in Grafton with my daughter Meg last Fall abiding by Dan’s wish, taking the scenic route, and not going over 60 mph. In some ways, this car is like Jeep Wranglers and older CJ’s because there was always a smile when I stopped for gas or was passed on the highway.

Grandpa meets one of the kids at a pit stop along the way home

What happens next? The VW is spending the winter in a heated garage in Wisconsin. When the weather warms up and salt on the roads gets washed away I will drive it to its summer home in Door County, an area just north of Green Bay where it will enjoy top-down days just like Dan would have wanted it to.

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